Why biographical Vincent van Gogh film Loving Vincent took 125 artists, 65,000 paintings and seven years to make

Why biographical Vincent van Gogh film Loving Vincent took 125 artists, 65,000 paintings and seven years to make

A Hong Kong-American artist says that a new film about Vincent van Gogh will give people a whole new perspective on the famous Dutch painter

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Vincent van Gogh is much more than the artist who painted Sunflowers, and Starry Night Over the Rhone, and chopped off his own ear.
Photo: Tiffanie Mang

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All of the paintings, including this one of Armand Roulin, was done in Vincent van Gogh’s famous style.
Photo: Tiffanie Mang

The film, Loving Vincent, is based on the life of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, and it’s the first film of its kind – because each frame in the movie is made from an oil painting. Painted clouds look like they’re truly rolling across the sky. The waves look like they’re actually crashing down on a painted beach. Brush-stroke flowers look like they’re really swaying in the breeze.

Impressive right? We think so too.

Van Gogh only ever sold one of his paintings when he was alive, but his works are now some of the most famous in the world. Many people know he cut off his own ear, and that he painted beautiful works like Sunflowers, and Starry Night Over the Rhone. What this film tries to do is to look at the artist beyond his art, and about his life.


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More than 65,000 paintings

One hundred and twenty five artists worked on the film directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. One of the artists, Tiffanie Mang, whose family is from Hong Kong, tells Young Post that even though you might think having that many people working on the film makes it easier, there’s actually still a lot of work to do.

“A single minute of the finished film is made up of 720 paintings,” the Hong Kong-American artist says. “The film is 94 minutes long. This means more than 65,000 paintings had to be made for the film.”

Six months in Poland

Mang said she heard about, and applied for a job as one of the film’s artists, in March 2016. When she was accepted in May of the same year, she flew out to Gdansk, a city in Poland, and stayed there for six months to work on the film.

Mang worked in the Breakthru Studios, located in Gdansk, Poland.
Photo: Tiffanie Mang

“I couldn’t believe it [when I heard I had been accepted],” Mang, a digital arts and animation graduate from the University of Southern California (USC), recalls. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It had been the hardest animation test I had ever done – I had never done animation with paint on glass before, let alone oil painting on canvas. When I found out I had passed, I was so happy. It was such a surreal moment.

“I had two and a half weeks worth of training, where I learned how to animate two scenes. After I passed that, I got officially made a part of production team alongside so many other extremely talented painters.”

Teaching others about the artist

In all, Mang created more than 200 paintings, each done in van Gogh’s style. She had to draw people from the artist’s life – Armand Roulin, the son of one of the artist’s friends; Paul Gachet, the doctor who treated van Gogh; Marguerite Gachet, the doctor’s daughter; and Louise Chevalier, the doctor’s housekeeper.


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“We used a canvas that was 67 centimetres long and 49 centimetres wide. We would draw [a moment from] the scene out from scratch and then take a photo with a 6K Canon camera. Then it would be painted over, and another photo would be taken [of the next moment], until the entire scene is done.”

Mang says she hopes this film will help teach more people about the famous artist.

“He hasn’t been properly recognised for his artwork. A lot of people only know about [the most famous of his paintings], and that he cut off his ear. There are other paintings that I love and I think others should know about, like Wheat Field with Cypresses, Portrait of Artist’s Mother and The Mulberry Tree.”

Here’s one of the shots in the film, where Armand Roulin and Doctor Gachet are talking in Gachet's garden as Louise Chavelier fetches them some tea. Photo: Tiffanie Mang
Photo: Tiffanie Mang

A labour of love

A lot of work went into making Loving Vincent, Mang says, and she adds that she hopes the audience will recognise that the film was a real labour of love from everyone involved.

“The story was done after lots of research, using books, personal accounts [from those who knew van Gogh], and based off of more than 400 paintings. This film took seven years to make,” she says.

“I hope people who watch it will come away with a new and better perspective of van Gogh – both as a person and as an artist.”

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
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